Business Aviation Predictions For 2022: What Lies Ahead? (Part 1)

Ed Bolen
Credit: NBAA

At the start of a fresh new year, leaders in the business aviation industry give their predictions for 2022. In this three-part series, they make predictions on what will be the biggest story of 2022, the biggest challenges the industry faces in the coming year, and if they had a dollar to invest, where they would put it. Watch for Part 2 in the Jan. 10 edition of The Weekly of Business Aviation and Part 3 in the Jan. 17 edition. (Respondents are listed in alphabetical order by company.)

Q. What do you think will be the most significant story of 2022 as it relates to the business aviation industry or to your sector of the industry? 

Richard Aboulafia, AeroDynamic Advisory managing director (formerly Teal Group vice president of analysis): 

The most significant story of 2022 will be the ‘user-stickiness factor.’ That is, to what extent will new business aviation market participants stick around and keep using private transport after the pandemic fades–which it will hopefully start to do next year. 

Eric Martel, Bombardier president and CEO:

We are still navigating a world that is fragile but showing signs of recovery. The effect the pandemic has had on business aviation is staggering, but for the right reasons. For the first time, business aviation could help shape global connectivity and recovery on a faster growth trajectory than commercial airlines. One of the trends that will certainly continue in the next year is the effect that the unprecedented surge in first-time buyers of business aircraft has had on our industry. In 2020, Bombardier’s orders from first-time buyers almost doubled compared to 2019, and this trend continues in our industry as a whole. New owners came because of the clear advantages of business aviation: safety, convenience, and time savings. But they also have different, higher expectations, especially in terms of cabin comfort and sustainability. These are a big inspiration to OEMs. We are in a peak time in cabin innovation–in ensuring uncompromised connectivity, wellness and security, but also a smaller environmental footprint of private flying. At Bombardier, we have already answered, and even exceeded, such expectations with our new Challenger 3500. But we haven’t stopped innovating, and neither have our peers. With the most technologically advanced business jet in its class, it represents a new benchmark for the industry. We are in an exciting time and 2022 will be an exciting year for innovation in business aviation.

Brian Foley, Brian Foley Associates:

Business jet manufacturers will be reporting their best business conditions since 2008. Backlogs will swell as lead times push out beyond 18 months, raising the recently unthinkable prospect of buyers selling their positions for a premium.

Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation president and CEO:

I think we will see business aviation emerge stronger than before the COVID-19 crisis. Already, flight activity is somewhat above 2019 figures. International segments are lagging as new variants spread. But we can anticipate a recovery as we learn to live and work with a certain amount of COVID here for the indefinite future. What has changed is that business aviation is viewed as more essential and is embraced by a larger cross section of the business community. COVID has changed some perceptions and practices throughout society, and that’s likely true for our industry, as well.

Jack Pelton, Experimental Aircraft Association CEO:

The continued focus on environmental issues will put pressure on removing lead from general aviation fuel. We have seen this already with airports in California banning the sale of 100LL aviation fuel. I expect the EPA to demand a timeline from the FAA as to when lead removal can be achieved. There are many complicated issues associated with achieving this objective, from development of a fuel solution, certification, [and] creating a standard to produce the new fuel to production of the fuel and distribution. While there are some point solutions now, there is no single solution developed to date. The plan will need to have a reasonable timeline to achieve the goal. If it is a knee-jerk, short timeline, it will have terrible unintended consequences. 

Pete Bunce, General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO: 

The industry has shown tremendous resolve throughout the pandemic, and in 2022 I think we will see that carry through with growth and opportunity. Our members’ focus will be on delivering on the strong order intake for new aircraft and equipment in response to the demand we see for general aviation products across the full spectrum of business jets, turboprops, pistons and rotorcraft. There will also be continued focus on enabling the introduction of new and innovative technologies improving utility and safety as we saw with several key enablers entering the fleet these past couple of years. Of course, the new entrants for both hybrid and electric propulsion airplanes as well as the steps being taken to enable a new era in vertical flight will continue to get wide attention across society and shape GAMA’s work with policymakers globally to ensure their successful entry in the coming years and the realization of advanced air mobility concepts.   

Mark Burns, Gulfstream Aerospace president: 

Connecting with and investing in our customers even more as they continue to increase their Gulfstream flights around the world is a significant focus for 2022. With the newly announced G400 and G800, along with the G700–which we anticipate going into service next year–and the G500 and G600, our customers can choose an aircraft or a fleet for every mission. We will also continue our Customer Support expansions and services to save them time, whether that’s by modernizing service centers in key locations or deploying more Gulfstream FAST (Field and Airborne Support) Teams around the world. Sustainability will once again be a major focus for us next year and the years to come as we support our industry’s goals toward carbon neutrality. We’ve been leading the industry with our use of sustainable aviation fuel, and we’ll continue to do that and lead the industry in the construction of environmentally friendly facilities, another key component of our sustainability strategy.

Sheila Kahyaoglu, Jefferies senior equity research analyst: 

I think we’ve seen new customer entrants. Embraer quoted something like 30% of its buyers are new. I don’t think COVID is pushing people to buy business jets. I think wealth creation is going to push people to buy a business jet. It’s whether that jet engine (wealth creation) keeps rolling or not. 

Brant Dahlfors, Jet Transactions co-founder:

The number of new plane owners as a result of COVID.

Tim Obitts, National Air Transportation Association (NATA) president and CEO:

Safety, fuel, and sustainability will remain top of mind in 2022. With the FAA positioned to expand Safety Management Systems (SMS) requirements to certificated airports, air charter operators, and maintenance facilities, all eyes will be on resources that build a framework for developing and implementing SMS and broaden understanding of the components involved in these systems across all facets of the organization. 

On the fuel side, the ongoing evolution of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and development of unleaded avgas alternatives will continue to make headlines in the coming year. In addition to SAF, aviation businesses are looking at various flexible, cost-effective options to pursue sustainable operations. Initiatives that encourage and empower continuous environmental enhancements will remain center stage–from the use of electric GSE vehicles and solar energy to installing LED lighting and paperless systems. While the industry persists in pursuing a long-term, comprehensive unleaded aviation fuel solution, NATA is working with fellow GA associations and fuel suppliers to ensure federally obligated airports are adhering to their grant assurances and 100LL is not arbitrarily banned as some airports consider actions to prohibit its use. You’ll see more on this topic from NATA and our industry partners as efforts to mitigate the impact of this issue on all stakeholders continue. 

Ed Bolen, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) president and CEO: 

My expectation is that the big thing that will be different in 2022–I think there will be a lot more business flying. The flying that took place in 2021 was more personal flying than flying for business. Hopefully, we see the world opening up a little bit more. Although it doesn’t look like it right now, hopefully, there will be more international flying as markets open up.

Patrick Gallagher, NetJets president of sales, marketing and service: 

The industry will see continued strong demand, but growth will be limited by supply constraints within the market. 

Janine Iannarelli, Par Avion founder and president:

Inventory and the supply chain. This is not a 2021 phenomenon in that buyers have rushed to the market; available supply has dried up and we will return to business as usual in 2022. This is the start of a multiyear event where demand will outstrip supply.

Rolland Vincent, Rolland Vincent Associates president:

Consolidation. I think we are going to witness a surge in M&A activity and some very large and unexpected business combinations. In no particular order: Within the aerospace supply chain, within the charter and fractional industry, amongst aircraft management providers, within the aircraft broker/dealer community and within MRO and FBO networks. My sense is that investors are eagerly hunting for opportunities within these spaces. 

Ron Draper, Textron Aviation president and CEO: 

This is a great time to be in general and business aviation. The momentum we saw build toward the end of 2020 and throughout 2021 is carrying forward a wave of excitement in the industry and in our company. Since 2008, every OEM has been, to some extent, in defense mode. I’m proud of the fact that during that time, Textron Aviation has aggressively been investing in new products and product upgrades that have continued to excite the market and our customers. Today, we’re seeing growing demand coupled with record low pre-owned inventory, significantly higher flight activity, and new segments of buyers entering the market either through whole aircraft ownership, fractional or charter/membership services. As 2022 evolves, we will all be acutely aware of how this growing interest continues to shape the market. This year will also bring new, important milestones in our Cessna SkyCourier and Beechcraft Denali product development programs. Bringing new products into these new segments is energizing for our customers and employees, as we continue to partner to drive forward innovations that allow more operators to be a part of the Textron Aviation family. These clean sheet programs, coupled with our substantial investment in product upgrades like the Beechcraft King Air 360 and 260, Citation M2 Gen2, CJ4 Gen 2 and XLS Gen 2, demonstrate how committed we are to provide the broad mission capabilities our customers need to succeed. Finally, this will be a special year for Textron Aviation as we prepare for the upcoming 2022 Special Olympics Airlift, where hundreds of our customers donate the use of their aircraft, fuel and pilots to help transport thousands of athletes and coaches to the USA Games in Orlando, Florida. This signature industry endeavor provides a unique opportunity for our aviation community to give back to our communities in a meaningful way.

Kenny Dichter, Wheels Up founder and CEO:

We believe the most significant storyline in 2022 will be the continued, unprecedented demand for private aviation, coupled with an incredibly constrained supply. The return of business travel remains uncertain, particularly with the emergence of each new COVID variant. We continue to focus on the transformation from an analog to digital model, powered by world-class tech talent and an innovative marketplace that will more efficiently connect this robust demand with highly fragmented supply. Moreover, we always keep our members at the forefront of everything we do. Safety is always first and never compromised, and delivering a world-class experience, despite a challenging marketplace, is our passion.  


 

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.